Opening ceremony of Master Dahan with Mark Slaats from Littleton & Hennessy

Mark Slaats, art consultant and antiques dealer at art advisory group Littleton & Hennessy provided the keynote speech at the opening ceremony of Dahan: Contemporary Monk Painting, at the Mall Galleries in London.

Mark Slaats said: “I really loved some of Master Dahan’s work – which combines Chinese and Western aesthetics.  Chinese art, both antiques as well as modern and contemporary are now at the forefront of the international art market, setting record after record both in private sales and at auction, and Dahan’s work further strengthens the historical bond between artists in China and London.

Dahan is an Abbot Monk of the Gaofeng Zen Temple in China, and his contemporary art exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London, is being held this week between Monday 21 and Friday 25 August, 2017. 

The 23 paintings that make up the exhibition demonstrate the artist’s transition from the preoccupations of a ‘layman of earthly ties’ – which included ‘anxieties, powerlessness and confusion of urban dwellers’ to the Zen paintings of a pastoral hermit. 

From an impoverished background, the artist, born with the name Hu Yongpeng in 1967 in the city of Yongan, south east China, remembers how his appetite for painting was so strong as a child, that he collected mineralsfrom the nearby Wuyi Mountains to draw and paint on the walls and floors of his home.

His affinity with Buddhism was also deep rooted in childhood, but he struggled with his personal kharma. It wasn’t until after Yongpeng studied and taught as an artist, that he felt shaken by the spirit of Buddha. He became ‘enlightened’ through a visit to an eminent monk Master Yuan Yin and became a monk in 2002.

His art transformed. 

Chinese art critic Guyue Feifeng said: “Master Dahan’s art now is completely different from his paintings before his enlightenment. He used to strongly express his sense of self with a vigorous brush, whereas his work now emphasises Buddhist understanding and anatta – or non-self.  He is a Buddhist artist who has gone through a baptism of modernism.

“His Zen painting style of natural environments integrates Chinese and Western landscape aesthetics, but the colours and hues he chooses aim to express emptiness. He draws with Zen, to explain the mountains, rivers, earth, universe and stars, with the hope that it fills viewers’ hearts with Dharma joy.”

Dahan said: “It wasn’t until I was first touched by the light of Zen that I felt lifted from life’s dilemma by a power from beyond. Buddhism resonates with my desire to use art to transform society through beauty and peace and I feel that contemporary Zen art is a counter-product to our fast food culture.”

Now, as head monk in an ancient mountain top temple, which he helped to rebuild by hand, he aims to mix his dedication to his faith with creating art. His most recent work has the twin aims of depicting the awe he has for his religion and of guiding viewers through their own spiritual search.

Dahan paints with acrylic on linen and rice paper and uses bone fragments, gold, silver, traditional Chinese medicine and other organic materials.

Dahan said: “I wanted to come to the UK to learn and communicate and to see how the British public will react to my work. The UK was one of the first countries to complete the industrial revolution and a reputation for excellent manners. Britain also has a host of extremely talented artists, such as the Pre-Raphaelites, Gainsborough, Constable, Turner, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and David Hockney. My experience here may also bring inspiration and revelation to my future artistic creations.” 

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